Grand opening held for new learning center in Franklin

Published 11:59 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Franklin Department of Parks and Recreation hosted the grand opening of its new learning center Tuesday, Feb. 22, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

The learning center was two-and-a-half years in the making.

Franklin Parks and Recreation Director Sammara Green-Bailey summed up the purpose of the gathering Tuesday in her presentation to community leaders and donors that were present.

“We are assembled here today to publicly display all of the hard work that has gone into this

project,” the presentation stated. “Our goal was to take a historical landmark here within the city and evolve it into a cornerstone for educational and community excellence. It is because of your dedication and commitment that we are able to reveal the addition of our learning center. The learning center will be able to provide access that will lead to community engagement, programs and resources.”

Green-Bailey gave a tour of this part of the community center. She brought everyone into the large, open area of the new learning center, which features tables and chairs and a large TV. She noted the center has cable and Wi-Fi.

She first highlighted rooms and spaces that surround the large, open area, starting with the virtual game room.

“This game room has three TVs, a (Nintendo) Wii, a PlayStation, and then we’ll have a regular TV playing in there for the kids to come,” she said.

Next to this room is what Green-Bailey described as a game table room that features different kinds of game tables, including air hockey and pool.

Then she drew people’s attention to the computer room, which features 10 computers.

“We did not have any computers in our community center before, so let’s note that, and we have a lot of people that don’t have computer access,” she said. “They can’t go across to the library all the time. They might need it after hours, so this is a great resource to our community.”

The community center is open six days a week, Monday-Saturday. Its hours are 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and it is open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

Adjacent to the computer room is a multi-purpose STEM room. It features some chairs and then tables that can break apart, allowing the space to be used as an activity room.

Green-Bailey said she and her staff are still waiting on a few more pieces of furniture that will be added to that room.

During her presentation, she put the spotlight on contractors and donors who made the project a reality.

Among the contractors, she first cited the city of Franklin.

“Our Public Works Department had a lot do with (the project),” she said. “A lot of time was spent.”

She said Repair Tech did the build-out, e-Plus Technology handled the application of technology, Baxter Brothers did all the painting, and Live Media Concepts LLC produced videos related to the project, including a before-and-after presentation.

Turner Electric was also a contractor that contributed to the project.

Donors that helped make the learning center possible included Franklin-Southampton Charities, International Paper, Ellis Cofield Jr., Sherwin Williams, Spoken Interiors, David’s Custom Cabinets (Josh Lowe), Timothy House & Deon Mason, Alan Rainey, Ricky Murphy, Ronnie Ricks, Roy Boyd Sr. and Damien Grady.

“It feels good to see people in here, because with COVID and then the construction going on, we’ve been limited to who we can allow to come in here,” Green-Bailey said right after the grand opening. “So it just feels good to know that now our kids can come back in here and use the facility as they need to, as well as just having people (here). We’re a community center, so we’re supposed to be open to everybody at all times, and so it just feels good that the project is now complete and we can start actually utilizing it and doing our programming and going back to normal, scheduled business like we had been.”

Mayor Frank M. Rabil said, “I think what we have now is a learning center of the present as well as a learning center of the future, and it’s a better utilization of this facility. And we’ve been blessed to have the community support we get from International Paper and from Franklin-Southampton Charities, so without their donations, this wouldn’t have come to fruition.”

He also credited the Parks and Recreation staff, the city and all volunteers for what they have done to make the project come to fruition.

“As I understand it, this is just the beginning,” he said. “There are more things to come for this facility to really make it a true community asset.”